Monday, January 26, 2015

Semester's end and honoring students

Today was the start of our new semester. I would love to be able to say kids came in to a new set up, and that I was raring to go. Unfortunately, Friday was the end of the first semester, and grades were due at 8:00 AM this morning. For the first time since we went to computerized grades, my grades were almost finished when I left here on Friday. I only had one set of writing papers to finish, and the comments to add to that section of the gradecard. I procrastinated all weekend. I blog stalked, read Twitter feeds, pinned on Pinterest, and more. I lived my outside life.  Finally late last night I slapped the last comments down, and called it a night.

I am emotionally wiped out. I just spent an hour discussing with my teammates about our upcoming awards program. Last year we started doing honor roll recognition at the end of each semester. The program is wonderful if your child has one of the top academic honors in a subject area, is an all A, or A/B student. What message are we sending to our RTI students, or Special Ed. students that won't earn one of these awards? Last year I spent an hour on the phone with a parent on the Saturday morning following that first awards program. She was worried her son might hurt himself. He cried himself to sleep every night for weeks following the program. He saw himself as a failure. Another child sat in a fetal position throughout the program, sobbing uncontrollably. She didn't get an award, and knew she never would based on grades. So many of my students in my two classes are great kids, just not the top in academics.

What message should I send my students this year? I could give awards in my classroom separate from the assembly. The other parents would never see them beam as they are recognized for their achievements in behavior, or character, or whatever I deem appropriate. Will that token award be enough to erase the idea of failure from their mind, as I try to get them ready for high stakes testing?

I would love to know if you do an awards program for academics. Do all students get something? Should they all get something? I am looking for some guidance as I try to do right by my kids.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


I live and teach in a state that used to do testing in the fall. We spent the first few weeks reviewing all of the previous years standards. We seldom got test scores back before spring, which rendered them almost useless. It was too late to really make an impact on those that had just missed proficiency. At-risk students had usually been receiving support in RTI.
This year we are finally joining the rest of the country in doing our state proficiency test in the spring. Testing windows vary. Our window for fifth grade begins the day we return from spring break. It runs for the next three weeks. This year we were going to do Smarter Balance Assessment, but the state decided to go with two versions of a new test, the M-Step. One is a paper/pencil and the other is computerized. We have opted to do the computerized test. This new test is very different from the old "MEAP". It is much more like Smarter Balance. It is also testing common core standards. They have opened a Spring Preview Test. I am going to give my students plenty of time to check out the sample questions. Luckily, this group of students did a pilot of Smarter Balance as third and fourth graders, so the test question format should be familiar.

Unfortunately, our math curriculum is not aligned. To prepare students for the test I am supplementing my math curriculum with task cards and other activities. I don't have as much time to make products as I would like, so I look for good deals. By following blogs and facebook pages, and stores on Teachers Pay Teachers, you can get lucky and win products. My textbook series doesn't get to operations with decimals for a few more weeks, so I jumped at the chance to grab some task cards and activities for centers. I happened to find to great products to help with decimals.
The first product was from Melissa O'Bryan from Wild About Fifth Grade. Melissa sent me her New Year's Decimal Centers.

New Years Decimal Centers Grades 4-6

What I loved about this set is that it included Task Cards, Independent Worksheets, and Math games. Students practiced rounding decimals, ordering decimals, adding decimals mentally, and multiplying decimals. 
My second product was from Verena Scrivens at Diary of a 5th Grade Teacher. She sent me her Dividing Decimal Task Cards.
Dividing with Decimals Task Cards

This set helped fill the requirements for dividing with decimals. I liked that Verena has the CCSS listed on each task card. This was helpful when determining which particular standards my kids still need to practice. This was a great way to practice skills, and made planning a breeze.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Re:marks Review

I recently had an opportunity to take a look at a new product. The product was from Re:Marks Personalized Designer Address Stamps. The stamp comes with a designer self-inking stamp featuring an interchangeable die plate. It allows you to use a single stamping device for all of your stamping needs. 

You can get a plate with your address, a monogram, one for greeting cards, etc. The setup is for a square stamp image. The stamping device is a sturdy design. I like that you can use one device for several different stamps. I think the only thing that would make it better would be for it to have additional storage for the other plates you might want. It would be helpful for organizing and storing multiple stamps.

The one that I received was a "Thank you" stamp design, a double sided black ink cartridge, and a redeemable certificate for a custom stamp design of your choice. So many choices made it difficult to choose my free one. They have so many styles from which to choose. You can even design your own stamp by uploading your own image. A direct link to Re:Marks product will allow you to purchase your own Re:Marks Stamp. I have used Re:Marks stamps before and love them. The ink lasts. 

I used my stamps to make Thank You cards for gifts my students gave me. It was fun, and a breeze to do with the Re:Mark stamp. 

If you are looking for a great stamping product, check out Re:Marks Stamps. They are a good dependable product with some great design choices.

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